Talismans (Short Fiction Collection)
Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman
Elise is disarmingly honest in her appraisal of the boys and men in her life. As heroine of this collection of linked short stories, she begins her narrative in kindergarten when she beats a boy in a race and doesn’t realize until years later why this victory fails to impress him. She is equally forthright in her commentary on the adult men who later appear as friends, companions, and lovers.
The one man who remains enigmatic is the father who returned from Vietnam to start a family with her mother and abandoned them the year after she was born. He seeks peace in another Asian country and dies of drowning before she enters school.
A grown Elise travels to Asia after the death of her mother who seemed as distant as the deceased father. As a teacher and then a casual tourist she is determined to find clues to her father’s life and motivation. A powerful ending reveals how both parents have shaped her psyche through their absence, perhaps with greater impact than presence could have allowed. A must read.